They have been called "The Vanilla Wafers," the homogenized, beautifully tanned, often blond, perfectly polite young men from the Sun Belt who annually struggle to qualify for and then stay solvent to the PGA Tour.
Golf puts its stamp on the talented few at an early age. They grow up daring to dream the improbable. Such a youth won the Maryland Open at Manor Country Club yesterday.
Gary Marlowe led the 54-hold tournament by two strokes entering the final round. He was paired with defending champion. Marty West. Both played the front nine in even-par 35. Then West hit a couple of iron shots over the green and out of bounds on the 13th and had to sink a 20-feet putt for a triple-bogey seven.
West was through, but Mark Alwin was coming on. Alwin took the lead midway on the back nine and was one stroke in front going to the par-3 17th, only to double-bogey and bogey the last two holes.
Marlowe could see Alwin's tree troubles-from the 17th tee. But a few minutes later he had pushed his shot off to the right. This left the 19-year-old son of the Woodmont Country Club professional in a ticklish situation.
"It was hard-pan, real firm," the Rockville resident said later."I had the blade open all the way. I had to get up over the trap guarding the green and stop it quick, because the pin was to the trap's side. I thought I hit it just about perfect."
He did, except he hit it a mite too fine, perhaps. The ball carried the trap, only to land in a narrow and the green. The ball stopped on the fringe, from where Marlowe two-putted for a bogey.
But when Alwin missed a short par putt on 18, Marlowe needed only to par the final hole to gain his first major championship. He was on in two and two-putted from 25 feet for the victory.
"The Greencastle Invitational is the only thing I ever won before," the victory acknowledge. "I was a good high school golfer (Good Counsel), my 16-17 year especially. And I was named the rookie of the year in the SEC (Southeastern Conference) at LSU last season. People keep encouraging me. They also tell me I could use a little weight." At 5-foot-11 he weighs 130 pounds.
"I was born to this game, I guess, although my dad, who has been a pro for about 35 years, never pressed me. I remember the first sticks I had, when I was 4 or 5. They were about a foot and a half. I've been playing 14, 15 years and I intend to try the tour someday. But first there's LSU. I was one of four freshmen we had playing last year, so we're looking good."
Marlowe believes the college route is the way to the tour.
"Coach doesn't let you sleep on Saturdays and Sundays," he said. "The competition is good. Someone is pushing you all the time. We had four tournaments in the fall and nine in the spring in the SEC last year, all medal play. We go all over the place. It teaches you to work at your game, and working at golf eight hours a day seven days a week is what it's all about.
"I'm taking business in college and before long I'll be going into marketing," he added, "but I don't believe I could do the 9 to 5 daily of the business world. I'd want to be a club pro if I can't make the tour."
Is it realistic, Marlowe was asked, to think he can someday make a living in the PGA pressure cooker?
Sure it is," he replied, if you'll do what you normally do. Practice. That's all you can do. All of us think about the tour. I may sit out and play amateur a year after college, then turn pro, try to get my card from qualifying school, and go from there.
"Right now the long irons are my biggest problem. I hit the one-iron with confidence but the two, three and four, I fan on every now and then. They need to be more firm. My short game saves me a lot. The words are the best part of my game, or at least I thought they were until today. I didn't think there were any fairways out there today."
Marlowe finished with 66-71-73 for an even-par 210, one stroke a head of Alwin and Ron Terry. Top prize was $1,250 for the professionals. Marlowe, an amateur, received a round of applause and a trophy.
"You get your name on it and the right to take it home and keep it for a year - and that's good enough," Marlowe observed. "I'm gonna fill it with beer.
"I was pleased today with the way I made putts to save par on 14 and 16 when I had to have them. I'm just going to keep practicing and keep watching the pros on TV. I think of Crenshaw when I'm putting, Nicklaus when I'm driving, and you got to think of Player with all the irons and Player with the bunker shots. For the short game, Weiskopf, I think he's great."
Even a partial blending of those abilities would guarantee Marlowe a profitable career on the pro circuit and that's what he's hoping for. Why not? At 19, with the Maryland Open in his bag, the young man has a right to believe.